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Your Environment. Your Health.

Brainstorming Session on Breast Cancer & the Environment

April 20, 2002 - Charlotte, NC

Opening Comments

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) held a one-day workshop on April 20, 2002 entitled NIEHS Brainstorming Session on Breast Cancer and the Environment. The purpose of this workshop was to gather input for a proposed NIEHS initiative on breast cancer. Congressional sources recently urged NIEHS to create multidisciplinary research Centers to pursue research on mammary gland biology, carcinogenesis and environmental influences on breast cancer. The April 20, 2002 workshop included a wide range of participants from the scientific research community and the breast cancer advocacy community (see attached participant roster). The discussion was divided into five sessions, which focused on mammary gland biology and toxicogenomics, windows of susceptibility, epidemiology, model systems and consumer involvement and advocacy.

Kenneth Olden (Director, NIEHS) and Frances Visco (President, National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC)) opened the meeting and emphasized the great opportunity at hand to create NIEHS Centers of Excellence to study breast cancer. Olden invited scientists, consumers and public interest groups to provide insight into what causes breast cancer and how to prevent it. Olden cautioned that breast cancer is a complex disease, which is caused by many factors and many complex interactions. Therefore, many kinds of expertise, resources and many institutions were needed to understand and prevent breast cancer. NIEHS seeks to create research Centers that will provide vision, leadership and coordination in the field of breast cancer research related to environmental factors. The proposed NIEHS breast cancer research initiative should involve government and non-government organizations including NBCC, National Cancer Institute (NCI), Department of Defense (DOD) as well as others who were not represented at this workshop.

Frances Visco described the three main goals of the NBCC:

  1. To increase federal appropriations for breast cancer research
  2. To improve access to care and treatment for breast cancer victims
  3. To increase public input and advocacy in the breast cancer community

Approximately 10 years ago, NBCC successfully lobbied for establishment of a congressionally mandated peer-reviewed breast cancer research program. NBCC is actively involved in this program, which is administered by the DOD. Recent NBCC efforts have led to the newly proposed NIEHS Centers of Excellence program on breast cancer, which is likely to receive funding in the near future. NBCC participated in this workshop to continue developing the dialog between NIEHS and NBCC and to move closer towards establishing the proposed NIEHS Centers program on breast cancer.

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